The Ninth General Conference:Islam And The West Past - Present - Future
Christianity and Islam The Values We Share By: His Eminence Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM: THE VALUES WE SHARE
By His Eminence Cardinal Alfonse Lopez Trujillo
Having taken part in the last Conference of The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, in Alexandria, it is a great honour for me to be here once more and to have the opportunity to speak to you.
I would like to offer a brief reflection about the important theme of this Conference: Islam and the West. I believe we should understand the "West" in a wider sense than Europe, focusing on the relationships between many nations and cultures, especially in the American continent, which have been formed under the inspiration of Christianity. However, while this inspiration has not always been respected by Christians who have not given good witness (cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 88), it also has a history that is noble, grand and sacred. Under the inspiration of Islam the East has also had a similar history. Therefore, today with great hope we see the development of a necessary dialogue. In the past, in many cases, there were various negative and painful situations and circumstances. But there were also positive contributions to philosophical and scientific thought and cultural enrichment in various fields. Therefore, there were moments of dialogue and cooperation as well as confrontation and conflicts.
The future of both the West and the East is inextricably linked to respect for peoples in a culture of peace. This is derived from recognizing the eminent dignity of the human person, opening the human heart to vast ethical horizons, and from recognizing the rights and duties of the human person, beginning with the right to live from the moment of conception until natural death. Likewise, the scared rights of the family (father, mother and children) must be recognized, protected and helped, defending the unity of the family. It is in the family that persons learn how to love with genuine responsibility and here the whole society grows, with a sense of justice, respect, love and forgiveness for all human beings. These are the common values that are part of the patrimony of peoples.
Created by God in his image and likeness as his creatures, in Arabic "ahlullah", all people are brothers and sisters. All nations form one great family, the family of the whole of humanity, and a large part of this family is made up of Islam and Christianity.
The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II recalled this beautiful and splendid truth during his last visit to the United Nations (October 5, 1995). His address centered around the human family and the commitments which spring from this reality. We cannot reduce everything to economic and political dimensions, which are impoverished without moral criteria.
In the international forum one sees how there is a great need to govern life and relationships in the light of the Natural Law, according to irreplaceable ethical principles which find their home in the great monotheistic religions, from whose heart rises one great prayer to God. We cannot fill to recognize this, here in Egypt, near Mount Sinai where God himself gave his commandments as a light and a guide for humanity, as a religious and ethical monument and treasury. To hear God and to follow his will is the way of happiness and peace for everyone.
As the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family of the Roman Curia in the Holy See, I followed with special interest the - convergence between Islamic delegations and the Holy See and other nations with regard to the family and life during the International Conference on Population and Development, held in 1994 in Cairo, the same city which today welcomes us so warmly at this meeting. These delegations were able to work very positively in demanding respect for ethical principles, especially in the face of birth control campaigns set against life and the rights of people. There were many dangers here because, without moral truth, liberty is destroyed and the dignity of peoples is degraded.
Part of defending the dignity of peoples is not to allow birth control to be imposed on them. This has opened the door to a false concept of man and the family. Human sexuality, linked to the mystery of procreation, is taken far from its original reality and turned into a "sexual revolution"- the tyranny of sex without responsibility, sex suffered by egoism, where persons are not respected but used as things, where motherhood is no longer a good but a danger and children are not the great gift of God but invaders coming to devour an already scarce supply of bread. In the face of this menace, it is time to proclaim the liberating power of the great moral values and to provide bread for the poor rather than forbidding them to have children.
We also have the beautiful common task and need of making religious liberty prevail, so that people might be free to turn to God privately and publically in every part of the world. At this meeting we have heard ratifications of the condemnation of intolerance, extremism and violent terrorism that can never be founded on religious truths.
The pyramids are said to have been tombs whose great height made it possible for the pharaohs to reach the sun. This was a poor but significant concept of salvation. Because we are near the pyramids, I would say that, from the heights of the great moral principles in the heart of families we can reach the sun of peace, dialogue and all those good things that are God's gift to the human family, and in this regard, everyone, especially Muslims and Christians, has a now historical mission.
Family values were also respected in Egypt from the most ancient times.
So, for example, we find this significant text that can be dated between 2,700 and 2,500 B.C. Husbands are reminded: "If you are wise, stay at home and love your spouse tenderly. Feed and clothe her well, but shower her with caresses and be sensitive to her wishes. If you distance yourself from your family, it will break up; on the contrary, open your arms to her, call her and show her all your affection."
Finally, I would underline our common need for a dialogue that finds it centre of gravity in the spiritual values that help us walk (understanding this verb as a moral attitude, corresponding to the Greek verb peripatein in a just and precise direction. In this field there are so many possibilities and it is here that religious values form the basis of certain ethical principles and help us understand them better. These values will help save many peoples from destruction.
Indeed there is a West that is rich in values but there is also a suicidal West without God, without ethics, without hope. In the future, the East could also be threatened by similar risks. But, like the negative aspects and the risks, sound values can also be spread everywhere and dialogue on values thus becomes a liberation.